Carina Chocano
August 22, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Is there any place left on TV where men can be men, women can be peripheral, and buddies can be crazy together, clinically or otherwise? Okay, dumb question. But just to keep track, Comedy Central has added two more testosterone havens: The fifth season of The Man Show, which returns with fresh hosts Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope, following former cohost Jimmy Kimmel’s ill-advised defection to late night (and the Show’s subsequent Carolla-ectomy); and I’m With Busey, which follows writer Adam de la Pena as he follows the Tao of weirdo actor Gary Busey by camping with him in the desert and watching him dance in drag.

The new Man hosts are a mixed bag, and considerably less sunny than their predecessors: Fear Factor’s Rogan seems to have swallowed Kimmel and is doing his best to regurgitate him, while Stanhope resembles an animated mug shot. Rogan lacks Kimmel’s frat-boy affability, but Stanhope provides a dark, twisted perviness that Carolla’s braying sports aficionado lacked. Most importantly, they don’t seem to be messing with the winning formula. New segments include a game show called ”Guess Whose Ass Crack” (I stand by the winning-formula bit), in which the audience is asked to distinguish the ass cracks of plumbers from those of pop starlets in extreme close-up (not as easy as it sounds); ”Doug’s Mom Reviews Porn” (the isn’t-my-mom-a-skank? routine has been done to death, but it’s still funny); and ”Drunken Crossfire,” in which four blotto bar patrons discuss current events in a roundtable setting. (Slurring aside, the results are barely distinguishable from The McLaughlin Group.) On this Show, you have a character called ”the magical Negro,” who, as Doug wrestles with whether to accept a ”happy ending” from a Korean masseuse, appears and says (as stardust spills from his tipped bowler), ”You have to follow your penis’ heart.” Moments later, a member of the audience downs a shot of sweat and bellows, ”I’m a man!” The juxtaposition is ultimately what’s great about Show: The satire gets smuggled in between the cleavage.

Rather than exploring the general effects of gallons of beer on the entirety of the Y-chromosome set, Busey specializes in one singular mind, which apparently has not been quite the same since a serious 1988 motorcycle accident. It would all seem cruel if de la Pena, formerly a writer for The Man Show and Crank Yankers (another Carolla and Kimmel creation), weren’t such a dorky kid. But Busey gets his revenge, trashing their desert campsite and embarrassing de la Pena at the mall. Their Yoda-Jedi relationship becomes more reciprocal and tender with time, and you get the feeling that Busey will be chasing his disciple around with flaming sticks long after the cameras stop rolling. The Man Show: B I’m With Busey: B

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